Parthenium hysterophorus is a noxious weed which invades roadsides, is allergenic for humans, infests pastures and farmland, causing disastrous loss of yield, as reflected in common names such as famine weed. In many areas, heavy outbreaks affect livestock health, crop production, and human health. Parthenium was first spotted in Arusha in 2010, since then the weed has spread at an amazingly fast rate and is increasingly causing a threat to national food security in Tanzania.
The Mafie family, Kaneli and Happiness, visited ECHO East Africa for the first time in March of 2016 to inquire about the use of slurry from biogas as a fertilizer. When visiting ECHO they were shown around the compound and learned various techniques of conservation agriculture that could help improve their farm, one technique being to use green manure/cover crops. The Mafie’s left ECHO with a variety of fruit tree seeds and one kilo of Canavalia seeds, a cover crop that is highly encouraged to farmers for increasing nitrogen levels in the soil and providing shade for the soil.
In recent times biogas technology is increasingly important around the world due to the requirements for renewable energy production, the need for recycling and reuse of materials and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Biogas addresses all the above concerns, using renewable inputs such as animal manure, producing methane-rich gas as an output which can be used as a source of energy in various ways. Another key output of biogas is the residual material which contains all the nutrients in the original raw materials and offers a way to recycle them. Besides being renewable, biogas is a source of clean energy meaning that methane when burnt is converted into heat and carbon dioxide. The latter is a lot less harmful to the environment in terms of contributing to climate change than methane which would have been released into the atmosphere in the absence of a biogas setup.